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Are We Alone? Why Scientists Think We Should Widen the Search for 'Weird Life'


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Music from a Canadian singer known as Feist …

A question from Brazil about UFOs ...

And watch out -- millions of Crocs are out walking the streets.

Crocs

Recently we stepped into the debate over the safety of Heelys and other roller shoes -- shoes with wheels that deploy when a kid wants to roll. Now, following in the footsteps of that story, we look at another shoe that people seem to either love or hate.  Faith Lapidus has the story of crocs.

Crocs are made of a lightweight material that softens and forms to the foot. A company in Colorado started selling them in two thousand two. It says Crocs keep feet cool, are easy to clean and resist bacteria and odor.

Traditional Crocs are kind of funny looking. They are big and in some cases brightly colored. The first ones were meant for boaters who needed shoes that would not slip on wet surfaces or mark boat decks. Now there are many different ones.

Some have the traditional back strap. Some do not. And some do not look like the original Crocs at all. There are flip-flops and women's dress flats.

Some people report that Crocs helped their foot or back pain. Some doctors say the shoes are good because they are wide and do not rub the feet. Others, though, say Crocs do not provide enough support to wear for hours.

Among the biggest fans are people who stand a lot in their jobs, like people who work in hospitals. Yet hospitals in some countries have been moving to ban Crocs. One concern is the risk of infection if blood from a sick patient falls on someone's foot through Crocs with holes in the top.

The company does make shoes without holes. But there are also questions about whether Crocs may attract static electricity which can interfere with medical equipment. The company has said it knows of no reason Crocs would act any different from sneakers and other footwear worn by medical professionals.

For people who wear shoes made of soft material, another issue is escalator safety. When they ride escalators, they have to be careful not to push the soft foam into the metal teeth.

Yet some people might be happy to see Crocs get eaten. They think the traditional styles are ugly. There is even a Web site where they can share their feelings, ihatecrocs.com. It includes a store where people can buy shirts and bags with the symbol of a pair of Crocs being cut by scissors.

Even so, the Crocs company says sales have been rising sharply, reaching more than three hundred fifty million dollars last year. The company reported strong gains in its latest earnings report last week, including strong foreign markets, especially in Europe.

UFOs

Our VOA listener question this week comes from Brazil. Humberto Bortoletto would like to know about UFOs, unidentified flying objects. He wonders if astronomers think it is possible to have a visitor to Earth like the little creature in the movie "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial."

Well, if any of you out there are astronomers, write to us at mosaic@voanews.com and tell us what you think.  In fact, it just so happens that a new report advises scientists to keep an open mind about what alien life forms might look like.

The report is from the National Research Council, part of the National Academies in Washington. It says the search for alien life has been limited by a belief that it would use the same biochemical structure as life on Earth. The report says the search for other life in the universe should include efforts to discover what scientists sometimes call "weird life." In other words, different from life as we know it.

This summer marks the sixtieth anniversary of the first major American UFO sightings in modern times. In nineteen forty-seven, people reported seeing a group of flying disks over the Cascade Mountains in the northwestern state of Washington. Similar reports came from the southwestern state of New Mexico.

On July eighth, nineteen forty-seven, the Army announced possession of a flying disk recovered on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. The military said it was a top-secret research balloon.

But some people believed that an alien spaceship had crashed. They believed that pieces of wreckage and the bodies of the crew were taken to a base and kept secret. The so-called Roswell incident has become a part of popular culture.

The Fund for UFO Research is a nonprofit organization in Alexandria, Virginia. It says the lack of proof that any kind of life exists outside Earth is one reason not to believe that UFOs are alien spacecraft. Another is the extreme distance to the nearest star.

The group notes that most objects reported as UFOs turn out to be planets, satellites, airplanes or other known objects. But the head of the Fund for UFO Research, Don Berliner, says there is also evidence to believe that UFOs may be non-Earthly. For example, he notes that descriptions from expert witnesses, military pilots and scientists are often the same. They describe objects of simple geometric shapes and extraordinary performance values, including silent high-speed flight.

Feist

Leslie Feist is a Canadian singer who is becoming very popular in the United States. For her performing name, she simply goes by Feist. And as we hear from Shirley Griffith, her sweet voice and her songwriting skills shine in her latest album, "The Reminder."

Shirley Griffith:

Early in her music career, Feist sang in a screaming voice with a punk rock band in Calgary, Canada. Her music now is much different. Her latest songs are gentle with playful beats and musical arrangements.

She recorded her third album, "The Reminder," with a group of musicians in a rented house outside of Paris. This way, she and her band could live in a nice environment without having to go to a recording studio every day. This song is called "I Feel It All."

Feist has said that she named her album "The Reminder" because she wanted it to bring together the past and the present. She says the album is filled with all kinds of memories, the kinds you want to forget and the kinds you want to remember forever.

Here she is with "Limit to Your Love."

This summer Feist will be performing around the United States and also in Britain and Japan. You can listen to more of her music at her Web site, listentofeist.com. We leave you with a song first made famous by the blues singer Nina Simone in the nineteen sixties. Here is Feist with her version of "Sea Lion Woman."

I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Dana Demange, Jill Moss and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. Transcripts and archives of our show can be found at voaspecialenglish.com.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


"American Mosaic" in VOA Special English
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